Sunday, November 14, 2004

Classroom Observations

I am nearly finished my classroom observations at MHS. I'll be sad when I'm finished observing because this has been a wonderful experience. My mentor Sarah has been incredibly helpful in regards to my practice lessons and any other random questions I've had.

One of the most interesting aspects of my observations is that I had the chance to observe an honors class and a c.p. class learn the same material. I am fascinated by way in which to alter the presentation of a difficult topic to make it accessibly to both learning capabilities. In the honors class the material tends to be presented in a very straightforward manner for example. Osmosis is (insert definition). While in the c.p. class the material was presented using many examples and analogies. Although both classes seemed to understand the material, I couldn't figure out why one wouldn't use the analogies and examples with the honors class as well? Then again, I often wonder if using the examples hurts the other students, since in college the material is rarely presented that way and more often then not we are left to our own devices to read about and understand concepts.

This will be something to ponder.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Introductory Practicum

During Fall break I completed the Introductory Practicum portion of TPP. Below I've copied the goals of the I.P. curtesy of the TPP webpage.

The purpose of the Introductory Practicum is to gain impressions of a teacher's
responsibilities when working with students, and to understand the role the
teacher plays in the classroom and the school in general. In addition, students
will be introduced in a substantive way to the national model standards for
beginning teachers that are reflected in the New Jersey Professional Standards
for Teachers (see Appendix A). Those standards serve as the foundation for the
Program in Teacher Preparation, and they are the criteria by which teachers will
be evaluated for licensure.
The centerpiece of the Introductory Practicum
will be a six-hour focused observation of a teacher in an area school. This
six-hour site visit will be preceded by an orientation seminar, and there will
be a follow-up seminar once the observation has been completed.

I was assigned to observe a special education teacher at one of the local high schools. Having attended a small public school that was not equipped to handle special education students, I found this to be an enlightening experience. Overall I thought the teacher had a good relationship with his students. However, I thought that he bargained inappropriately with his students. During my observation one of his classes took a short 10-minute quiz on unit conversions. The students began complaining that they were not prepared and "couldn't" take the quiz because they "didn't know anything." This wasn't exactly true considering they had several homework assignments and class practice the day before on this material. He bargained that if they took the quiz like they were supposed to he would give them a chance to retake it. I thought that bargaining the day they were scheduled to take the test was inappropriate. I think it is important for teachers to be sensitive and flexible, but this needs to happen before the assignment is due.

Another observation I made was that the students taking the quiz had a look of panic in their eyes when they realized that they might not entirely know how to complete the problem. Then they would stop and annouce that they couldn't do it, without even putting what they knew on the paper. I got the impression that the kids didn't know test taking strategies like writing down everything you know even if you cannot finish the problem. Maybe the teacher was working on this with them, but I didn't get the impression.

One last criticism I had was that the special education science students were in a trailer behind the school as opposed to a traditional laboratory room with lab equipment. I thought this was not fair to the students. Just because they may struggle with some of the material does not mean that they are incapable of lab work. I noticed that a lot of construction was ocurring at the school, so maybe this is just a temporary problem.

All in all it was an informative day. Teachers have a lot of responsibility for their students above and beyond just teaching them course materials, they really are teaching them life skills as well.


My name is Melissa and I am a senior at Princeton University majoring in Psychology with a neuroscience concentration. I am also completing the Program in Teacher Preparation in order to be able to teach high school biology.

In middle school and high school I remember spending most of my lunch periods and study halls informally helping my peers with their classwork. There is one friend in particular who credits me with her survival of AP Calculus, even though I have told her repeatedly that she is the one who did most of the hard work, I just helped out here and there. During high school I was often told that I should become a teacher, but I asserted that teaching a whole class of students was far different from one on one tutoring. However, last year I was asked to participate in the Princeton Science Expo on behalf of the neuroscience program. The program was designed for middle and high schoolers and let them explored some of the fascinating research conducted at Princeton. I spent the day giving mini-presentations about the brain, neurons and how they can be responsible for motivational diseases such as alcoholism and obesity. I loved working with the kids, I was impressed with their knowledge of the subject matter and their enthusiasm. It was this experience that was the deciding factor for deciding to enter the teacher prep program.

Since entering the program, I have discovered that teaching is my "calling." I have never been so fulfilled by any one class at Princeton has I have been with this class. Afterall, it seems that I am at last adhereing to Princeton's mantra, "Princeton in the Nation's service and in the service of all nations."